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Topic: kicking the Ambien habit--help...

Forum: Managing Side Effects of Breast Cancer and Its Treatment —

This is a place to discuss concerns, tips and strategies for all types of side effects from all types of medications and treatments, (chemo/rads/hormonal/targeted/pain meds/etc.

Posted on: Jan 3, 2010 02:38PM

weesa wrote:

Anybody been able to get off Ambien? I have been taking Ambien CR way too long. Last year I was able to reduce the dose from 12.5 to 6.25 but have not been able to make further progress. Have heard it is as hard to get off of as heroin.

My pcp insisted I take it when I was first diagnosed, but that was long ago and I have done well with my treatment. Hope somebody else can give me advice--I have tried natural supplements, nothing seems to work.

Sometimes I wonder if I am an old soul temporarily trapped in a breast cancer body. Dx 11/22/2002, IDC, 6cm+, Stage IIIA, Grade 2, 5/25 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Chemotherapy 1/20/2003 Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Radiation Therapy 6/14/2003 Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy 8/23/2003 Femara (letrozole) Surgery Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (right): Latissimus dorsi flap
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Jan 3, 2010 04:14PM flash wrote:

I've been on Ambien and off of Ambien.  I found that just going without meant 3 days of hard to fall asleep then there was no difference.  At the moment I'm back on it for other reasons but I would think that you should be able to get fully off it if you're down to 6.25.

Good luck

multifocal multicentric IDC, DCIS, pagets et al. - er+,pr+ her2+++, mast,chemo, ooph, hyst Dx 10/10/2007, Paget's, Grade 3, ER+/PR+, HER2+
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Jan 3, 2010 07:50PM Laurie09 wrote:

I just went off it after about 10 months on. I was really afraid I wasn't going to be able to go off it.  I weaned myself down going to every other day dosing for a couple of weeks, then stopped it and for some reason, i've (mostly) been sleeping OK. 

I do try to make sure I only drink caffeine in the morning - none later in the day, and i try to make sure I get some exercise every day also to help me sleep.  I don't know if these things have helped, but i've been sleeping OK. 

I had a couple of days 2 weeks ago when I had a lot of stress at work and couldn't sleep, so I took it again for a couple of days.  I still have some left, and am going to try to keep it for those times when I have trouble sleeping for other reasons. 

Laurie Dx 2/20/2009, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 2, 7/12 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2- Chemotherapy 3/11/2009 AC + T (Taxol) Surgery 8/27/2009 Lymph node removal: Right; Mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (right): Nipple reconstruction, Tissue expander placement Radiation Therapy 10/4/2009 Hormonal Therapy 11/4/2009 Dx 5/2015, IDC, Stage IV
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Jan 3, 2010 08:11PM firstmate wrote:

I had trouble sleeping for years and was taking Ambien almost every night.  I made a decision that I wanted to come off of it because I felt that it was affecting my cognitive thinking.  I tried the every other night method.  It did not work.  I just didn't sleep on the night off.  So I stopped taking the Ambien cold turkey.  It took me about 2 weeks of sleepless nights.  But now, I am sleeping much better.  I do not sleep through the night, but am able to fall back to sleep easier. 

The other thing that helped at first was sleep deprivation.  I read about this solution online.  The method is to stay up until 12 midnight and if awake, get out of bed at 0600.  This does work because you are not lying in bed for 12 hours trying to get 6 hours of sleep.

Good luck and sweet dreams.

Robin Dx 1/29/2008, DCIS, 6cm+, Stage 0, Grade 3, 0/7 nodes
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Jan 6, 2010 05:42PM Suzanne3131 wrote:

YES Valerian works very nice!  Liquid can smell nasty...you can take it in capsules too though.  Also, passion flower, skullcap, catnip, chamomile all very nice. 

Dx 8/13/2009, IDC, 1cm, Stage IB, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jan 7, 2010 10:08PM Kitchenwitch wrote:

I get something at the health food store called Calms Forte. It's fine... sometimes I take two. Sometimes I use a melatonin (my husband likes this). I also try all the standard things... bedtime routine... no naps... etc etc. Usually after the third night of not enough sleep I have no problem falling asleep!

Dx 11/31/2009, DCIS, Stage 0
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Jan 7, 2010 10:16PM BonnieK wrote:

I've been taking Lunesta since my Dx and have the same fears about getting off it, so this thread is really interesting.  I've tried many different supplements and techniques to get back to sleeping naturally, but so far nothing has worked except the Lunesta.  My PCP is fine with me taking it, but I'm not so sure. 

-bonnie

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Jan 7, 2010 10:18PM Shanagirl wrote:

I don't know what I would do without my Ambien.  Sleep is a non issue for me.  I went for years with problems sleeping.  Then about 10 years ago my doc gave me Trazadone and it was wonderful to be able to sleep.  I stayed on that for 5 years then the doc switched me to Ambien. I really don't know if I could ever sleep normally without it.  If I thought i could, I would kick the habit also..

Shanagirl Dx 1/13/2009, IDC, 5cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 1, 2/18 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Hormonal Therapy Aromasin (exemestane) Chemotherapy AC + T (Taxol)
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Jan 7, 2010 10:18PM cookiegal wrote:

this may be a lame idea, but try using otc sleep pills for a week, at least you will be off ambien for a bit, and maybe the transition is easier.

You deserve a cookie!
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Jan 7, 2010 10:21PM jancie wrote:

Shanagirl - I have also taken trazadone to sleep and it works. I have been taking ambien since I was diagnosed a year ago and I have no plans of going off of it anytime soon.  I like being able to sleep.  I dealt with insomnia for over 15 years and couldn't convince the doctors to prescribe ambien.  Some nights when I really need extra sleep I will take a valium instead.  My body pretty much lets me know which sleep aid I need to take that particular night. 

Never Alone - My TaTa Sisters are always with me! Dx 12/30/2008, IDC, 4cm, Stage IIB, Grade 1, 0/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jan 7, 2010 10:24PM jancie wrote:

Note that if you are taking tamoxifen - many of the OTC sleep aids interfere with Tamoxifen.  You can go to drugs.com and they have a search area for interactions checker - type in Tamoxifen and it will list all drugs that interact with Tamoxifen and make it less effective.  Ambien, lorazepam, and valium do not interact with Tamoxifen.

Never Alone - My TaTa Sisters are always with me! Dx 12/30/2008, IDC, 4cm, Stage IIB, Grade 1, 0/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jan 7, 2010 10:24PM kmartin wrote:

I switched from Ambien CR to .5mg of lorazepam. Just helps me to relax and fall asleep...then I usually stay asleep.

 Kathy

Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much Dx 2/8/2008, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIB, Grade 3, 4/27 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-
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Jan 7, 2010 10:26PM mississippiqueen wrote:

I sleep in spurts...and always seem to wake up at 3 AM, turn on TV with captioning and either go right back to sleep or watch some movie.  Until I was talking to my surgeon and he asked about sleep habits, on anything, etc.  I had begun taking Tylenol PM to offset some pain from the butchered biopsy and let me sleep at night and told him.  The Tylenol helped with the pain and I slept.  He told me to save money and just take regular tylenol and buy generic Benadryl.  I tried it.  It works and is very, very cheap.  Just a thought that follows the lines cookiegal mentioned.

MX left side 12/28 with immediate TE Dx 12/4/2009, IDC, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jan 7, 2010 10:26PM BonnieSF wrote:

I'm glad I found this thread. I'm trying to get off of ambien also. I'm down to 5mg but at bedtime I'm not even slightly sleepy without it. 

 Firstmate: I like your method of staying up to midnight, then getting out of bed at 6am. The two weeks of sleepless nights don't sound too good though. But worth it to get off drugs. 

When first diagnosed I couldn't sleep even with ambien. At that time I used super soothing music and that helped. The valerian is a good idea, too. I quit caffeine MONTHS ago. 

This is giving me motivation and inspiration to get to work on quitting ambien. How hard can it be compared to cancer treatment!?

Thanks,
Bonnie

Two lumpectomies; 30 radiation treatments; refused tamoxifen Dx 8/4/2009, IDC, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 2, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jan 7, 2010 10:36PM SusieMTN wrote:

I have never taken Ambien.  I did however have some sleep issues so I will instead tell you about the products I use.  I use Tranquil Sleep and Melatonin, I switch back and forth.  I also as already mentioned limit my cafeine. I do still nap as with me if I get too tired it is one of my not sleeping/wakefulness triggers.  Find what works for you, may take trying a few things.  My Onc didn't seem to have a problem with the Melatonin.  Good luck!

When I grow up I STILL want to be an old woman.....Mets and ALL! Dx 7/22/2008, ILC, 6cm+, Stage IV, 2/3 nodes, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2+
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Jan 7, 2010 10:43PM ruthbru wrote:

I tried the soothing music, but it didn't work for me. In fact, if I had had a gun I would have shot the CD player!!! Ambien CR is the only thing that has worked, and I sleep so well on it that it is like a gift, but I struggele with the idea that I'm 'cheating' or that I'm not getting as good a quality of sleep etc. etc. as I should (although compared to 2-4 hours, which is what I was getting, anything would be better). A lady on a different thread recommended 3 mg. of melatonin bought from a health food store, where the ingredients are natural, so I might try that. (My family doctor says if I need ambien to sleep, just take it and don't worry about it.......) ?????

"Invisible threads are the strongest ties." Friedrich Nietzsche Dx 2/2007, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/11 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Jan 7, 2010 10:50PM weesa wrote:

Are there any bad side effects from being on Ambien for years and years? Seems like something that feels that good must have a trade-off somewhere! Thanks for all your suggestions, I am trying several of them, and will let you know what works.

Sometimes I wonder if I am an old soul temporarily trapped in a breast cancer body. Dx 11/22/2002, IDC, 6cm+, Stage IIIA, Grade 2, 5/25 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Chemotherapy 1/20/2003 Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Radiation Therapy 6/14/2003 Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy 8/23/2003 Femara (letrozole) Surgery Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (right): Latissimus dorsi flap
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Jan 8, 2010 10:45PM ruthbru wrote:

I went online and checked out 'side effects of the long term use of Ambien'. Along with all the crazy stuff people write, this is what I found; when you take it at all, they have all the usual strange side effects listed on the prescription brochure; like sleep driving, sleep eating etc. etc. but if you don't have those things happen, it seems like there are no big side effects caused by time alone. One place said that long term side effects included 5% of people feeling dizzy and 3% had a drugged feeling (which is how I feel when I don't sleep!). Another place said, "There doesn't seem to be any serious safety concerns of taking Ambien long term." They also said that people who have been dependent on drugs or alcohol have a bigger chance of being addicted (duh), and if you want to quit, you are better off to taper off instead of going cold turkey. Also it comes in 5 and 10 mg pills. I checked and I'm on 10mg, maybe I should ask to go down 5mg, or cut the pills myself. I don't know, if there are no long term bad effects, maybe I don't care if I'm addicted to it or not. ??? Undecided

"Invisible threads are the strongest ties." Friedrich Nietzsche Dx 2/2007, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/11 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Jan 9, 2010 11:12AM knowledgeforpower wrote:

My PCP prescribed Ambien for me at the end of May.  I had just finished chemo and started Aromasin.  I was not sleeping and was very fatigued.  With Ambien I was finally able to fall sleep and fall back asleep when I awoke later.  In September I started cutting the 10 mg in half and I stil fall asleep easily and can go back to sleep if I wake up.  Aromasin is causing joint pain which can wake me up.  I keep thinking about stopping the Ambien, but  need the sleep and feel I can cope with the joint pain if I am rested.  I am still cutting the 10 mg in half.  I am thinking about cutting the half in half. I don't feel groggy in the morning and seem to have no side effects.  Bendryl makes me feel hung over in the morning.  I've thought about switching to melatonin.  My PCP wasn't concerned  I was still taking it. Like Ruthbru maybe I don't care if I'm addicted.  I am addicted to sleeping well and coping well...

Cathy Dx 1/16/2009, IDC, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 3, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jan 9, 2010 03:36PM weesa wrote:

Thanks! I haven't been able to find long term se's for Ambien either. But, I've been on it over 7 years and I am sure five years from now they will decide taking Ambien for more than 5 years causes your toes to fall off or something even worse. I am not opposed to addiction--I think I am addicted to a morning cup of coffee or exercise, for instance. Anyway, I am trying the Valerian drops...seem to be working...will keep you all apprised.

Sometimes I wonder if I am an old soul temporarily trapped in a breast cancer body. Dx 11/22/2002, IDC, 6cm+, Stage IIIA, Grade 2, 5/25 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Chemotherapy 1/20/2003 Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Radiation Therapy 6/14/2003 Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy 8/23/2003 Femara (letrozole) Surgery Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (right): Latissimus dorsi flap
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Jan 9, 2010 03:47PM pip57 wrote:

I have always had trouble falling asleep.  I have tried everything under the sun. Since I have been taking imovane for the last two years it is not an issue any longer.  I think imovane (Cdn)  it is similar to your ambien.  My doc says that it is quite safe to take long term and both of us feel that getting a good night sleep is most important.

PIP - multi focal, FEC100/Tax, rads, dble mast with no recon, ooph/hyst, arimidex Dx 2/1/2007, DCIS/IDC, Left, 3cm, Stage IIIB, Grade 2, 9/16 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jan 26, 2010 09:40PM LeapFrog39 wrote:

I've been taking the Ambien for 2 weeks and have been having dizzy spells that are getting worse.  I think I'm going to switch to benadryl.  It makes me a little groggy in the morning, but I don't have any other problems with it. 

~ Wandalynn ~ ********** Diagnosed 3/13/2009 from FNA, 39 years old. BMX with full axillary dissection on right side.Final pathology report: 4cm+ high grade DCIS tumor with micro-invasive idc, 2/32 lymph nodes. ER/PR-, Her2+++, Stage IIa Surgery 4/14/2009 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel Surgery 5/4/2009 Lymph node removal: Left, Right, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Right; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left Targeted Therapy 6/30/2009 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Chemotherapy 6/30/2009 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Surgery 2/28/2011 Reconstruction (left): Tissue expander placement; Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery 3/9/2012 Reconstruction (left); Reconstruction (right)
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Jan 27, 2010 01:53PM Welga wrote:

Imovan (Ambien) always made me dizzy, try Ativan, it's a benzo but I never got addicted

Welga

Dx 4/4/2006, IDC, 2cm, Stage II, Grade 1, 1/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jan 30, 2010 07:11PM weety wrote:

leapfrog, did you ever determine if it was the ambien that was giving you the dizzy spells?  I saw your other post on the TCH thread and I, too, am getting these dizzy spells now that I'm only on the herceptin.  I was dizzy a lot during chemo, too, but of course I didn't worry about it then because I knew all kinds of poisons were circulating in my body.  Now that I'm just on herceptin, it's making me more and more nervous.  I'm not on ambien.  I just followed you to this thread to see if you had resolved your dizziness issues. 

My dizziness is not so much like the room is spinning.  It's more of a mild, woozy feeling.  It almost feels like my eyes are dizzy, if that makes sense.

Dx 7/17/2009, IDC, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 3, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2+ Surgery 4/19/2010 Prophylactic ovary removal Surgery 4/10/2013 Prophylactic mastectomy: Right Hormonal Therapy Femara (letrozole) Targeted Therapy Herceptin (trastuzumab) Radiation Therapy Chemotherapy Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Surgery Mastectomy: Left
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Mar 13, 2010 01:15PM LeapFrog39 wrote:

My Onc wanted to rule out anything else so she sent me for an MRI of the brain which came out perfect according to the doc.  I tried taking the ambien again, with the same results, so I guess I'm just sensitive to it which sucks because it works really well!

~ Wandalynn ~ ********** Diagnosed 3/13/2009 from FNA, 39 years old. BMX with full axillary dissection on right side.Final pathology report: 4cm+ high grade DCIS tumor with micro-invasive idc, 2/32 lymph nodes. ER/PR-, Her2+++, Stage IIa Surgery 4/14/2009 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel Surgery 5/4/2009 Lymph node removal: Left, Right, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Right; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left Targeted Therapy 6/30/2009 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Chemotherapy 6/30/2009 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Surgery 2/28/2011 Reconstruction (left): Tissue expander placement; Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery 3/9/2012 Reconstruction (left); Reconstruction (right)
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Mar 13, 2010 01:18PM ruthbru wrote:

I have been cutting my Ambien pills in half, and they still do the trick for me Smile!
"Invisible threads are the strongest ties." Friedrich Nietzsche Dx 2/2007, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/11 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Jun 4, 2010 12:55AM orchidgal wrote:

I took it after my brother died by suicide. Six weeks later I was DX w/ BC. I kept taking it until I was having nightmares, horrible headaches and what seemed like depression, and non-stop crying jags. Wasn't sure what was due to my circumstance or the drug. My PCP said to stop Ambien, and I replaced it with melatonin, taking 3x the regular dose. I am now stable, grounded, moving forward towards treatment and sleeping better - not perfect, but enough. Ambien messes with your neurotransmitters with long term use, so beware.

Dx 4/20/2010, DCIS, 5cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jun 23, 2010 06:33PM BonnieSF wrote:

I wanted to report that I'm completely off of Ambien and have been since March! It took about a month of effort, but after that, smooth sailing!

The effort was to have regular bedtimes and wakeup times, no caffeine, soothing music, exercise, and patience with wakefulness (slowly count breaths; NO thinking allowed!).  

It certainly helped when I needed it, but I'm glad to be off of it.

Bonnie

Two lumpectomies; 30 radiation treatments; refused tamoxifen Dx 8/4/2009, IDC, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 2, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jun 24, 2010 10:19AM ruthbru wrote:

I tried all the melatonin stuff & Tranquil Sleep with no success what-so-ever. When I take nothing at all, I am up and down all night long, am exhausted, and the more tired I am, the less I can sleep (if I had a gun, I would have shoot the 'soothing music' CD!).  So I'm back to cutting my Ambien in half, which works for me. I think I will just stick with that and be glad for it. Are we havinf fun yet?!

"Invisible threads are the strongest ties." Friedrich Nietzsche Dx 2/2007, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/11 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Jun 24, 2010 01:53PM ginadmc wrote:

I was glad to see this thread because I have been wondering about weaning myself off Ambien. I'm taking 10 mg every other night. Sometimes on my off nights, I have to go to our guest room otherwise, I hear every little noise (husband, dog). I really like Ambien because it helps me stay asleep. Before I got the presciption, I was waking up every 1 - 1/2 hours, not very restful. I was on it during my chemo. I only have a few pills left but I'm sure my Onc would renew it for me. I'm thinking I might want it during radiation, beginning 6/29. Gina

Gina Dx 12/8/2009, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 3/17 nodes, ER+/PR+ Surgery 1/13/2010 Lumpectomy: Left; Lymph node removal: Left, Sentinel Surgery 1/27/2010 Lymph node removal: Left, Underarm/Axillary Chemotherapy 2/15/2010 AC + T (Taxol) Radiation Therapy 6/29/2010 Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy 8/31/2010 Dx 12/10/2013, DCIS, <1cm, Stage 0, Grade 3, 0/0 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2- Surgery 1/15/2014 Lumpectomy: Right Radiation Therapy 2/16/2014 Breast
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Jun 24, 2010 05:49PM ruthbru wrote:

Sleep is good!!!!!!

"Invisible threads are the strongest ties." Friedrich Nietzsche Dx 2/2007, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/11 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-

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